Critics try to stop release of brutal 'Orientalist' Iraq video war game

Critics try to stop release of brutal 'Orientalist' Iraq video war game
A video game based on the deadly battle of Fallujah is set for release by the end of this year. Critics are trying to stop what they describe as an insensitive video game depiction of war.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
01 November, 2021
A video depicting the deadly battle of Fallujah is facing criticism over its upcoming release [Getty]

WASHINGTON: War is not a game. That's the message that a wide range of critics - from Muslim civil rights activists to US war veterans to gamers - are trying to get across as they try to stop the release of the video game "Six Days in Fallujah", which is set to be released by the end of this year.

The game, which attempts to relive the Battle of Fallujah through the eyes of a US soldier fighting off the "bad guys" has been in the works for more than a decade. The game, developed by Atomic Games, was canceled and then dropped by the Japanese publisher Konami after widespread criticism.

It is now planned for release in the coming weeks by much smaller entities, developer Highwire Games and publisher Victura, who have not responded to The New Arab's repeated requests for comment. But renewed protests have once again put its release into question, with the same question being asked: How is it a good idea to make a video game out of war?

"This game is insensitive. It dehumanises Iraqi lives, and it commodifies Iraqi deaths," Reema Rustom, a youth organiser with the Arab American Action Network, told The New Arab. "To have a video game based off of this? These victims deserve respect. They don't deserve a video game. People's lives are not a game."

Other critics of the game include the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who, along with the group Veterans for Peace, released a statement earlier this month condemning the game.

"CAIR and Veterans For Peace believe that the game is fundamentally an 'Arab murder simulator' that glorifies violence that took the lives of over 800 Iraqi civilians, justifies the illegal invasion of Iraq, and reinforces Islamophobic narratives," reads their statement.

It also stressed that US tactics in its assault on the city included the use of white phosphorous, with an unusually high number of babies born with birth defects since the battle.

With all of this discussion of the game from activists condemning it, there is not much buzz about it in the gaming world, said Vincent Ghossoub, founder of the game development company Falafel Games, which he attributes to a lack of interest among gamers.

"The chat about 'Six Days in Fallujah' is more active in the non-gamer community," he told The New Arab.

From what he's seen of the game's footage, he said: "It's obviously a game with a political message or context. Gamers usually aren't very keen about that. They're usually quite counter-culture."

Looking at it politically, though, he said: "It reeks of Orientalism. It reinforces this portrayal of the Arab as the terrorist. It's not good as a message. It gives people prejudice and prevents critical thinking. Games should enable critical thinking and not reinforce prejudice. Doing that is quite cheap."

He predicts that when or if the game is released, the reception will not be enthusiastic, pointing to the fact that its original distributor dropped it, wanting to avoid the controversy. Meanwhile, he believes gamers will also likely not be interested in what appears to be propaganda.